Arts in Hudson
I’ve made several trips to the Columbia County city of Hudson in recent weeks and here’s what I can report: Hudson is a cool little city, with an interesting arts community, nifty new venues and some impressive industrial architecture. I haven’t been there during the day, but there appears to be a thriving gallery and antique scene, if you’re into that sort of thing. The drive from my apartment in Albany to downtown Hudson is about 50 minutes and I wouldn’t make it for just anything, but the city keeps hosting events that seem worthwhile. If this keeps up, I’ll be going there all the time.
On Friday, I traveled to Helsinki Hudson, a restaurant/club that is the new home of Club Helsinki, the Great Barrington club that closed its doors in 2009. The two venues have similar vibes, although Helsinki Hudson is larger and perhaps a little more elegant — less roadhouse than nightclub. Like its predecessor, Helsinki Hudson offers a small, intimate atmosphere, great sound and an eclectic schedule. I caught the Americana/folk duo Brown Bird there, and they were pretty impressive, playing an array of instruments (cello, violin, guitar, bass drum, etc.) and producing a surprisingly full and complex sound. David Lamb’s deep, rich baritone reminded me a bit of the Capital Region’s own Sean Rowe, and blended well with MorganEve Swain’s clear, melodious voice.
Brown Bird’s music is rooted in American folk, bluegrass and country, but what makes it unique (and differentiates it from contemporaries such as The Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes) is its foreign influences. The duo’s sound draws heavily upon klezmer, gypsy music and other Eastern European folk genres, which gives their music some unexpected twists and turns — just when you think you’ve figured out where a song is going, something unexpected happens. Their music is also darker and more intense than I expected, but with a rousing, foot-stomping undercurrent. Brown Bird reminded me of the Denver-based gypsy punk/folk band DeVotchKa, and since DeVotchKa is one of my favorite bands, that’s a pretty high compliment.
Since I like checking out new venues, just getting to hang out at Helsinki Hudson was a treat, and I’m hoping to go back sometime soon.
I’ve also attended two movie screenings at Basilica Hudson, a contemporary arts space in a 12,000-square-foot factory building. Owned by musician Melissa Auf der Maur, best known for playing bass in Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, and her filmmaker husband, Tony Stone, Basilica Hudson’s schedule features an interesting mix of movies, music and dance. Normally I wouldn’t travel 50 minutes to see a movie, but Basilica Hudson happened to be showing two films that are not available through Netflix and have been in the saved section of my queue for about five years: Andrezj Zulawski’s completely insane 1981 arthouse horror film “Possession,” and the 1984 documentary “Streetwise,” a cinema verite look at teenagers living on the streets of Seattle.
Both films were well worth driving to Columbia County to see, and not just because of the immense satisfaction I got from finally being able to remove them from my Netflix queue. “Possession” (which my viewing companion has declared his new favorite movie) is an intense, frightening and yet oddly hilarious domestic horror story, about a failing marriage, a creepy weird tentacle creature and, yes, some kind of otherworldly possession. “Possession” is not a film for all tastes, but it was definitely a film for my tastes.
“Streetwise” is a heartbreaking, non-judgmental portrait of teens selling drugs, working as prostitutes, squatting in vacant buildings and doing whatever they can to survive. What’s amazing is that some of these kids have parents who remain a presence in their lives: The mother of the 14-year-old prostitutes is completely aware of what her daughter is up to, but says, “It’s just a phase she’s going through.” Director Martin Bell’s footage is absolutely amazing — his subjects were obviously completely comfortable with him, and speak of their lives with candor and sadness.
The old factory building that houses Basilica Hudson is pretty cool — spacious, with high beams, exposed brick and big windows. I have yet to make it down for a musical event, but the schedule is promising, with groups and musicians such as Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo, Gang Gang Dance, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Grimes scheduled to play their over the next couple months. Click here for the schedule.
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